Christianity and Creation: The Essence of the Christian Faith and Its Future among Religions: A Systematic Theology

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Christianity and Creation: The Essence of the Christian Faith and Its Future Among Religions: A Systematic Theology. By James P. Mackey. New York: Continuum, 2006. xix + 403 pp. $34.95 (paper).

This remarkable and idiosyncratic book is the twelfth in a series of studies of theology and ethics by a distinguished Roman Catholic theologian currently teaching at Trinity College, Dublin. I say idiosyncratic since it has no index, footnotes, or bibliography (except for list of his own books and articles). It views twentieth-century theology as a series of lapses; sees Hegel as "the greatest Christian theologian of the modern era" (p. xvii) and Karl Barth as "the greatest theologian of the twentieth century" (p. 8); and begins each chapter with an epigraph from Nietzsche. Why? Because Nietzsche "understands cosmic creation as no Christian theologian or preacher of the time did" (p. xvi).

Mackey states that this book was written for "those who still maintain a thoughtful and preferably critical interest in religion" (p. xi). The prologue, however, was written for students and practitioners of theology and discusses seven promising moves in twentieth-century theology, which ended in lapses summarized in what he describes as "franchise theology." This he defines as "the superstructure model of grace above and beyond nature, and of revelation above and beyond history" (p. 20). The prologue ends with a summary of the thesis of the book entitled "The Case for a Full-Blown Theology of Creation."

The rest of the book consists of two parts. Part one is entitled "The Essence of the Faith of Jesus the Jew" and has chapters on creation, fall, salvation, and God. The last chapter includes a detailed analysis of the development of the doctrines of Christology and Trinity. Part two is entitled "Christianity: The Religion That Developed from the Faith of Jesus the Jew" with chapters on credo, code, cult, and constitution. An epilogue treats "Christianity and Other Religions."

Mackey describes his book as "a standing-on-scriptures theology. A thoroughly scriptural theology" (p. xii). This is its main strength, especially in part one which is filled with original, often profound, biblical exegesis, albeit with little discussion of historical critical issues. Mackey focuses on Genesis and John, which he describes as "the two most foundational, powerful and insightful books of the Bible" (p. 145). On this basis, Mackey s book is an extended argument that Christianity is essentially a doctrine of creation, "a creation faith." This is elaborated most clearly and fully in the creative exegesis of part one, showing the deep relation between the doctrines of creation, fall, salvation, and God. Mackey does, however, refer regularly to various theologians and philosophers, especially Plotinus.

Mackey's creation faith, in contrast to "sin-driven theology" (p. …